Making coproduction happen – Valuing the voice

Over the last few years, Expert Link has been lucky enough to work with some inspiring individuals and organisations trying to make coproduction happen, all working tirelessly to ensure that the voice of people with lived experience of multiple disadvantages is included where decisions are made that affect our lives.

We want to pass on some of the wisdom that people have shared with us. Over the next few months we’ll be blogging about all things coproduction, hopefully inspiring individuals and organisations on their coproduction journey. If there’s something in particular you want us to discuss, or that you want to share with others, please let us know!

To start off this series, we want to talk about valuing the voice of lived experience.

Value the voice

We are clear about the value of the voice of lived experience in improving services and support. Our voices give a deeper understanding of issues, give insights into solutions only possible through experience of specific disadvantages, and importantly lead to better delivery and increases in positive outcomes for people engaged in services.

For local authorities and organisations not used to coproduction, however, this value may be outweighed by perceived concerns around risk and resource. Meetings may be chaotic, suggestions for change may be unrealistic, people won’t turn up anyway, etc etc…

To speak the truth – we have been in an unstructured, lengthy meeting with little incentives, people can be passionate about big change and want it quick, and sometimes there are bigger priorities in life than a voucher and a thank you.

But if an organisation does want to harness the value of the voice of lived experience, then there is plenty that can be done in response to these concerns:

  • Provide appropriate incentives for individuals (yes financial, with considerations where appropriate around how these interact with the welfare system, but also access to training, skills development, and opportunity to make change)
  • Hold accessible meetings (at accessible times for an accessible amount of time)
  • Be honest (and open to dialogue!)
  • Give feedback (big change doesn’t always happen straight away, but positive feedback on how contributions are continually being used shows the value that our voice is giving)

We know that there are other ‘logistical’ challenges, but we also know that these can be overcome, and the best way to do so is through dialogue and sharing ideas with others. To support this we’re hosting a series of online meetups where organisations and individuals can get together and discuss how to meet these challenges. If we can keep on learning from each other, then we can all grow and bring about change.

Valuing the voice

But importantly, rather than focussing on challenges we want organisations to realise the value of coproduction, to realise that there is great work happening that is changing lives. In Blackpool, for example, the Lived Experience Team are working with organisations across Blackpool to ensure that their services reach people experiencing multiple disadvantage, bringing positive changes to the working practices of the DWP, probation and more. In Luton, the Luton Homelessness Partnership has been set up, bringing together all stakeholders including those with lived experience, to tackle homelessness. Westminster City Council’s Rough Sleeping Team are regularly advised on their commissioning decisions by a group of people with lived experience of rough sleeping. The #seethefullpicture campaign last year was inspirational in changing public perceptions, away from negative labels of those experiencing multiple disadvantage to an enriched understanding of the skills we all have.

We want everyone to know about the positive work that is underway, so that the value of coproduction is clear for all, perceived challenges are overcome, and organisations are inspired to make a first leap into changing their ways of working for the better. Individuals and organisations are already doing this, and we hope to make a contribution through sharing positive stories widely in our work. If you want to support this and have anything you want to share, please get in touch!